Persistence pays off, they say, and it certainly worked for the organisers of the New Mills Festival who set their sights on getting one of their most famous old boys back to the town for a fundraising gig.
They first asked Lloyd Cole if he would return to the town where he went to grammar school two years ago but didn’t quite pull it off. Then this summer – pretty much at short notice – they were told that he had added New Mills to his tour.
They weren’t sure how it happened but they were thrilled at the news and have been frantically selling tickets ever since.
For Cole it was simply that he couldn’t really resist the idea, once he had spotted the request on the list of possible venues on his agent’s desk.
“It was a case of they asked and I wanted to do it. Had it not tied in with the other dates we were doing in England it might have been more difficult but it. When I saw it there I just said to them ‘let’s do it’,” he told artsbeat.
“I have been back to Derbyshire a few times since my family moved away. I went to a school reunion not so long back and I performed at Buxton Opera House eight years ago but this is the first time I have performed at New Mills.”
Cole who was born in Buxton and lived most of his teenage years at Chapel-en-le-Frith but having passed his eleven plus was sent to the grammar school at New Mills. While he was a pupil he formed his first punk rock band with two pals Michael Towers and Duncan MacKenzie – they even performed at the end of term ball.
“I lost touch with Duncan and Michael a long time ago. But, hey you never know, maybe I will be able to reconnect with them when I am in New Mills,” he mused. Stranger things have happened so if they are reading this maybe they might want to go along.
Cole says he is only in town for the one day. He’s flying into Manchester, hiring car and then heading back to the airport on his way south for a festival in Worthing the next day. But he has kept the rest of his evening free after the gig in case he bumps into anyone.
The musician is touring with what he reckons is his ‘career best’ solo album Standards, which was released last summer. He featured on Later with Jools Holland last October and has played to sell-out audiences across Europe ever since.
Classic tracks such as Perfect Skin, from Cole’s days with The Commotions, will feature alongside songs from throughout his solo career at the New Mills gig.
Cole left New Mills to go to university in London and then later in Glasgow. It was there that he met Blair Cowan and with him formed Lloyd Cole and the Commotions who sprung to success with their 1984 debut album Rattlesnakes.”
He says he was not really influenced by any one person but credits David Bowie and Marc Bolan with being the stars he wanted to emulate.
“What Bowie did was very important for us growing up as teenagers. He and Marc Bolan made me want to be on television. My ambition was to be in the places I saw my heroes,” he said.
The group produced two more albums, Easy Pieces and Mainstream, before disbanding in 1989, when Cole relocated to New York to record with various artists, including Fred Maher, Robert Quine and Matthew Sweet. He has been a solo singer-songwriter ever since.
On this latest album his own son William plays guitar and his proud dad says that if he is ever making another rock and roll record he will call him up to join forces again.
“He has developed into a pretty interesting guitarist. He grew up listening to Quine playing with me. He has developed his own style but there are hints of Quine and hints of Keith Richards in there.”
Cole admits he gave his son a little slack during the making of the album, as he wanted him to enjoy it.
“I tried to make it easier for him. I didn’t want his first sort of experience on an album like this to be an unpleasant one. But I did have to put my fist down a few times and say I am afraid I am the boss here and even if you think that version is better this is my album,” he said with a laugh.
Reflecting on his career spanning three decades he says that if he had to pick three tracks which sum up his music it would be Are You Ready To be Heartbroken from Rattlesnakes, Late Night Early Town from Music In A Foreign Language in the 90s and It’s Late from Standards.
“Late Night Early Town is one of the songs I am happiest with and I think it is one of my better records even though it was probably my least successful album in the UK. It was just after I had finished working with major record companies and it didn’t get promoted very well.”
Although he rates It’s Late on his new album I tell him that I love Myrtle and Rose and he instantly confesses that more people including his mother have picked out that track as their favourite.
“It’s quite lovely at my age to be able to come up with something which is the one for her don’t you think?” he says.
Of course that’s what making music is all about he says: “The music is for other people – it is not for me. That’s one of the joys of creating it – you know, that even though you have created just one piece yourself, that when it goes to potentially an infinite number of people there will be an infinite number of ways it can be read.
“If you write well enough and make sure the lyric is not particularly inflexible then people can always find their own way of listening to it. Nobody wants to listen to music that tells you how to listen to it.”
His one piece of advice for singer songwriters out there trying to get their one big break is to find a voice that is different to the rest.
“Find your voice, trust it and work really hard,” he says.
Tickets for Lloyd Cole at New Mills Art Theatre on August 22 are priced at £15 and are available online via the Festival website http://www.newmillsfestival.com, New Mills Arts Theatre website http://www.arttheatre.co.uk or in person at the Festival box office at The Studios, 12 Union Road, New Mills on Thursdays 11am – 7pm and Fridays 11am – 4pm. For more information contact: 07753842861